Here Come the Cameras: Highlights of the Post-CES Deluge

Options abound if you’re looking for a new camera in 2011. Here are the new announcements we’re most excited about in the realms of ultracompact cameras, premium point-and-shoots, pocket megazooms, rugged cameras, DSLRs, and everything in between.

A Tight Zoom on 2011's New Cameras

The pixels have barely dried on our roundup of CES 2011's hottest camera announcements, but here we are a month later with a brand-new batch of cameras to consider in the upcoming year. The past few weeks have presented a smorgasbord of camera announcements from the likes of Canon, Fujifilm, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, Pentax, Samsung, and Sony. Here are the new cameras that stand out from the pack at first pass. Take a closer look.

Nikon Coolpix P300

Price and availability: $330, March

Key attributes: F1.8 lens, low-light shooting, full manual controls, creative shooting modes, 1080p video

Behold, a new competitor for high-performance compact cameras such as the Canon PowerShot S95 and Olympus XZ-1. With a maximum aperture of F1.8 at the wide-angle end of its 4.2X-optical-zoom lens (24mm-100mm), the Nikon Coolpix P300 has a 12-megapixel BSI (back-side-illuminated) CMOS sensor that's designed to perform well in low-light environments. Full manual controls and aperture- and shutter-priority modes complement the camera's auto and scene modes, which include HDR (high dynamic range) options, the ability to isolate a single color in a black-and-white shot, a one-touch panorama mode, special-effects filters for both stills and video, and full high-definition video recording at 1080p and 30 fps. A RAW-shooting mode isn't in the feature set, but this is an attractive lower-priced option for casual photographers.

Canon PowerShot Elph 300 HS

Price and availability: $250, March

Key attributes: Ultraslim body, low-light shooting, high-speed modes, 1080p video

Casual photographers who can do without manual controls should take a look at the PowerShot Elph 300 HS, which has an ultra-wide-angle 5X-optical-zoom lens (24mm to 120mm). It packs in a low-light-optimized 12-megapixel sensor, extensive Auto and scene modes, and high-speed shooting modes that capture eight full-resolution stills per second or 240 frames per second of 320-by-240 video. In its normal movie mode, the camera shoots 1080p high-definition video at 24 fps. You get all of that in an extremely pocketable frame that measures just 0.77 inches deep.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX9V

Price and availability: $350, April

Key attributes: 16X zoom, low-light shooting, GPS, 3D and other fun modes, fast autofocus, manual controls, 1080p video

The 16-megapixel, GPS-enabled Cyber-shot DSC-HX9V is a feature-packed follow-up to last year's Cyber-shot HX5V. It offers the same complement of creative in-camera scene modes as Sony's recent cameras do, but adds three 3D-shooting modes, a higher 16X optical zoom range (24mm to 384mm), 1080p AVCHD video capture at 60 fps, and a revamped autofocus system that Sony claims can focus sharply within 0.1 second. The HX9V comes with the new 3D Still Image mode, which debuted with Sony's CES camera announcements, and it also offers the 3D Sweep Panorama and Sweep Multi-Angle modes found in a few of last year's Sony cameras. The HX9V has full manual controls for shutter speed, aperture settings, and focusing, but not aperture-priority and shutter-priority modes.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS10

Price and availability: Price to be determined, March

Key attributes: 16X zoom, GPS with in-camera mapping, 3D mode, fast autofocus, manual controls, touchscreen interface

The follow-up to last year's Lumix ZS7, Panasonic's highest-end pocket megazoom adds intriguing new features for 2011, including touchscreen controls for focus, shutter, and motion-tracking autofocus; a 3D shooting mode; and a longer-range 16X-optical-zoom lens that reaches from 24mm wide-angle to 384mm telephoto. Panasonic has also revamped the camera's GPS database to include points-of-interest information for a million international locations, and a new "nano surface coating" on the lens is designed to eliminate ghosting and blur from images. The camera's 14-megapixel CMOS sensor rattles off 10 shots per second in its high-speed burst mode, and the Lumix ZS10 captures 1080i AVCHD video at 60 fields per second.

Nikon Coolpix S9100

Price and availability: $330, February

Key attributes: 18X zoom, low-light shooting, fun shooting modes, 1080p video

The 18X-optical-zoom (25mm to 450mm) Coolpix S9100 may not have manual controls, but it still covers a lot of bases with its in-camera arsenal of automated shooting modes. Its 12-megapixel BSI CMOS sensor is optimized for low-light shots, and the camera has Backlight HDR and an exposure-bracketing Night Portrait mode to help unleash its potential in near-dark environments. Nikon has also implemented an Easy Panorama mode that, much like Sony's Sweep Panorama mode, lets you press the shutter once and pan the camera across a scene to create an instant panorama image. Also in the mix is a 1080p/30-fps movie mode, along with stereo mics and a dedicated video-record button.

Canon PowerShot SX230 HS

Price and availability: $350, March

Key attributes: 14X zoom, low-light-shooting, GPS, full manual controls, high-speed modes, fun shooting modes, 1080p video

Canon's first GPS-enabled camera, a follow-up to last year's PowerShot SX210 IS, has a new 12-megapixel backside-illuminated CMOS sensor that gives the camera high-speed shooting capabilities (8 shots per second in burst mode, 240 frames per second in its 320-by-240 Super Slow Motion Movie mode) in addition to low-light performance enhancements. The SX230 HS includes full manual controls plus aperture-priority and shutter-priority settings, as well as fun automated modes that mimic a tilt-shift lens, simulate a toy camera, and isolate individual colors in an otherwise black-and-white shot. The SX230 HS also ups the video ante by recording 1080p high-def footage at 24 fps.

Olympus SZ-10

Price and availability: $250, March

Key attributes: 18X zoom, 3D mode, creative shooting modes

It's a bit bulkier than your average pocket megazoom, and it doesn't offer manual controls, but the 14-megapixel, CCD-sensored Olympus SZ-10 does serve up a lot of zoom and some unique in-camera features for its sub-$300 price. Its 18X-optical-zoom lens reaches from 28mm to 504mm, and the camera has Olympus's new accelerometer-driven 3D shooting mode that coaches you through the process of snapping a three-dimensional .MPO image. In-camera art filters include a "Punk" mode that turns photos into two-tone, poster-like images; a "Watercolor" mode that simulates the look of a painting; and a "Drawing" filter that mimics a pencil-drawn sketch. Video capture caps out at 720p and 30 fps.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3

Price and availability: Price to be determined, March

Key attributes: Waterproof/shockproof/freezeproof/dustproof, GPS with in-camera mapping, compass/barometer/altimeter, 3D mode, fast autofocus

Panasonic's rugged-camera line gets a 3D-and-GPS-fueled update (and a fairly slick redesign) with the Lumix DMC-TS3. The 12-megapixel CCD-sensored TS3 has a 4.6X-optical-zoom lens (28mm to 128mm) and is rated as waterproof when submerged to depths of 40 feet (or less) underwater, shockproof when dropped from heights of as much as 6.6 feet, freezeproof, and dustproof. It has the same in-camera GPS functionality as the Lumix ZS10, as well as a barometer, a compass, and an altimeter to spice up underwater, hiking, and snowboarding shoots. The TS3 also offers a 3D mode to capture .MPO images with a quick pan of the camera, as well as full HD video recording at 1080i and 60 fps.

Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS

Price and availability: $400, April

Key attributes: Waterproof/shockproof/freezeproof/dustproof, in-camera geotagging, LED lights around the lens for macro shooting

The 14-megapixel Optio WG-1 GPS, another ruggedized model, has a waterproof rating of 33 feet, a shockproof rating of 5 feet, and a sealed body that's immune to freezing temperatures and dust. Along with a 5X-optical-zoom lens (28mm to 140mm) and a 720p video mode, the camera has GPS capabilities that geotag shots while you're climbing rocks and stuff. The WG-1 GPS is also equipped with five front-mounted LED lights built for macro shots (and spelunking); the LEDs should illuminate up-close subjects with a warm glow instead of the flood of light that the majority of built-in flashes blast out.

Nikon Coolpix P500

Price and availability: $400, March

Key attributes: 36X zoom, low-light shooting, high-speed modes, full manual controls, adjustable LCD, creative shooting modes, 1080p video

The full-size Coolpix P500 megazoom is Nikon's new fully loaded low-light-optimized camera, and the marquee feature is its massive, ultra-wide-angle 36X-optical-zoom lens (22.5mm to 810mm). It offers full manual controls, aperture- and shutter-priority modes, and a dual image processor that powers in-camera features such as high-speed video shooting (720p video at 60 fps, and 640-by-480 video at 120 fps), HDR-shooting and bracketing Handheld Night Scene modes, and a one-touch Easy Panorama mode. In addition to its high-speed video capabilities, the camera shoots 1080p video at 30 fps. Other distinctive features include secondary zoom controls mounted on the side of the lens, as well as a tiltable 3-inch LCD screen to help with odd-angle shot composition.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX100V

Price and availability: $450, April

Key attributes: 30X zoom, GPS, 3D modes, low-light shooting, high-speed modes, fast autofocus, full manual controls, adjustable LCD, creative shooting modes, 1080p video

Sony's high-end Cyber-shot DSC-HX100V megazoom has an impressive 30X-optical-zoom lens (27mm to 810mm) backed by full manual controls, aperture- and shutter-priority modes, and a 10-frames-per-second burst mode at full resolution. Its 16-megapixel, low-light-optimized CMOS sensor can capture 3D images in three different ways, and it offers special scene modes for HDR photos and handheld low-light shots. Other goodies include in-camera geotagging, a tiltable LCD screen, 1080p video capture at 60 fps, and very fast autofocus.

Pentax Limited Edition Silver K-5

Price and availability: $1700 (as a kit), April

If you're familiar with the Pentax K-5 DSLR, this is the same camera--dressed up in some nice new duds for the new year. In addition to this special-edition silver camera, Pentax is providing three new silver-colored lenses to help ensure that your optics are color-coordinated. The 16-megapixel K-5 shoots 1080p video and 7 frames per second in its continuous-shooting mode, and it has a weather-sealed, magnesium-alloy covered body. The matching silver lenses on offer are the 21mm F3.2 AL, 40mm F2.8, and 70mm F2.4 Pentax-DA models.

Canon EOS Rebel T3i

Price and availability: $800 (body only), March

Canon didn't need to change much to make the EOS Rebel T3i an enticing successor to its entry-level T2i DSLR. The major addition to the EOS Rebel T3i is its 3-inch, tilt-and-swivel LCD screen, which is designed to help with capturing images and 1080p video from overhead and low angles. Also new to the feature set is a revamped in-camera help guide to coach novice shooters, as well as a built-in wireless transmitter that you can use with Canon's external Speedlite flashes.

Fujifilm Finepix X100

Price and availability: $1200, March

Key attributes: Fixed 35mm/F2.0 lens, APS-C sensor, built-in neutral density filter, hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder, one-touch panorama mode, full manual controls

Even though its aesthetics are bound to please anyone, the fixed-prime-lens Finepix X100 probably isn't for everyone, considering the price tag and a feature set that's geared primarily toward hard-core hobbyists. Its bright F2.0 lens has a fixed focal length of 35mm (that means no zooming), and its APS-C sensor and nine-blade aperture should create jaw-dropping bokeh and stunning depth of field. It also sports a built-in neutral density filter to prevent overexposed images when you're using slow-shutter/wide-aperture combinations, and its old-school optical viewfinder has a new-school electronic data overlay that helps you keep tabs on in-camera settings. In addition to full manual controls and knob-based access to shutter and exposure settings, the Finepix X100 incorporates a one-touch panorama mode that captures ultrawide vistas easily.

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